Disrupted sleep refers to any condition in which sleep doesn’t follow a normal cycle. Because of the general nature of the term “disrupted sleep,” the causes of disorders that fall into this category are varied.
Some of the common factors that may contribute to disrupted sleep include:
- A poor diet
- Drug and alcohol use
- Inadequate exercise
- Mood disorders
- An inadequate sleep environment
- Use of certain prescription medications.
Identifying the underlying cause of disrupted sleep is key to determining proper treatment and getting sleep patterns back on track. Without treatment, disrupted sleep can cause people to suffer from:
- Blurry vision
- Mood swings
- Poor memory
- Trouble learning.
Over time, if disrupted sleep persists, it may lead to the development of more serious conditions such as hypertension and heart disease.
Sleep Apnea and Disrupted Sleep
Sleep apnea occurs when a person periodically stops breathing, skipping at least one breath or more during sleep. Daytime drowsiness and fatigue are the most common symptoms of sleep apnea. Because sleep apnea symptoms are so general, cases of sleep apnea are frequently undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.
Parasomnia describes a group of conditions associated with disrupted sleep. A parasomnia is unwanted physical motion or activity while asleep. Sleepwalking, sleep talking, bedwetting and night terrors are all examples of parasomnia disorders.
REM Sleep Disorder
REM sleep disorder, or REM sleep behavior disorder, is a type of parasomnia. During REM sleep people usually experience atonia, a temporary paralysis that prevents people from moving while they dream. People with REM sleep disorder don’t experience atonia and physically act out their dreams.
Dreams associated with REM sleep disorder can be violent, and the dreamer’s actions can endanger them or their bed partners. Examples of REM sleep disorders range from grunting and shouting during sleep to fighting or sexual behavior.
Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome
Delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS) is a circadian rhythm disorder. DSPS patients tend to go to sleep late in the evening and rise later in the day. As many as 15 percent of adults may have DSPS, according to the American Sleep Association (2007).
Delayed sleep phase syndrome tends to start in adolescence. Treatment options for DSPS involve changing the sleep environment, altering diet and exercise habits and examining or adjusting other aspects of lifestyle, such as caffeine intake. However, if going to bed late doesn’t interfere with school or work schedules, treatment may not be necessary.
Other Causes of Disrupted Sleep
Many other causes of disrupted sleep exist, including:
- Advanced sleep phase syndrome
- Periodic limb movement disorder
- Restless leg syndrome.
American Sleep Association. (2007). Delayed sleep phase syndrome. Retrieved August 19, 2010, from http://www.sleepassociation.org/index.php?p=delayedsleepphasesyndrome.
Home Communities. (2000). Overview, causes, sleep paralysis, REM sleep. Retrieved August 19, 2010, from http://www.sleepdisorderchannel.com/rem/index.shtml.
Mayo Clinic. (2010). Sleep apnea. Retrieved August 24, 2010 from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sleep-apnea/DS00148.
PsychNet. (n.d.). Parasomnia. Retrieved August 19, 2010, from http://www.psychnet-uk.com/dsm_iv/parasomnias.htm.
REM Sleep Disorder. (n.d.). What is REM sleep disorder? Retrieved August 19, 2010, from http://remsleepdisorder.com/.